What is Richard Hutten up to now?

October 6 2017


Richard Hutten has been nominated for a Dutch Design Award many times. He participated in various categories and he was always lauded by the jury for his capacity to give his own twist to seemingly simple products. The process of creating and the manufacture of his designs appear to be a central theme in his work.

Where does your fascination in your designs’ manufacturing processes come from?

“Making products is what I am all about. Delighting as many people as possible with my work, and mass production is a very good way to achieve this. When I first started out as a designer, the design landscape was very different. The Netherlands was just scrambling out of a recession, but of course we didn’t have the internet or mobile phones. It was a whole different world where it was difficult to find a job in the design industry. So at the time, I opted to start my own production company and I closed it ten years ago. Now I only need to concentrate on design. I enjoy doing that the most.”

Is this studio also the place where you manufacture your products yourself?

“Up until 2008 I produced products myself here, now I only design here. I visit my customers and my customers visit me here too. In general they are located abroad and so I have to travel a lot, but I do my best to be here as much as possible to work and play. I love it here. I have been in this studio since 1998, so quite a while really. When I first came to work in this area in 1993, there was practically no one else here. Now designers like Daan Roosegaarde and Sabine Marcelis have established their studios here too. It has become a kind of creative hub in Rotterdam.”

Is playing important in your design work?

“The heart of my existence is formed by playing in my life. Homo Ludens, the book by the historian Johan Huizinga about man at play, is my bible. Just as he described, I see playing as an integral part of culture. I’m a cultural entrepreneur, I make culture, playing is culture. People sometimes ask me where my inspiration comes from, but I don’t really adhere to that school. When you give a football to a child, you don’t ask if he is inspired to play football? It is not about that, it is especially about having fun and just doing it. I hope I always manage to maintain my childlike naivety. I have never felt so much pressure that I encountered a block. The work has to be done, but ultimately for me it is all just a game. It is tough, you do need to do your very best. Creativity is a muscle you have to train, I exercise it every day. At the point that I stop learning I will stop, but now I am still curious and continue to investigate and still colour outside the lines, I am not scared to fail. Working really hard, because it is fun.”

With how many people do you work on your products?

“At the moment there are four of us working in the studio. I do my best to keep it small, so I’m very selective in accepting commissions so that it remains fun. A while back I had nine employees. I felt more like a manager than a designer, and that made me really quite glum. I don’t want to be the orchestra’s conductor, I want to play one of the instruments.”

But you are the creative director for Gispen

“As the creative director, I have nothing to do with budgets and investments, but I can steer in a particular direction and provide advice. In my own work too I advise the customer to make a particular product, and they can of course always say yes or no. I love getting to work strategically; using the potential of a company and establishing a vision.”

Photo: Vincent Mentzel

From your many and very different nominations it is obvious that you feel at home in many design disciplines. In which area of design are you currently most active?

“Furniture design is the most important part of my work and it has been since day one, and it is still what I have the most fun doing. I still intend to make the ultimate chair. I’m never going to manage this, but I’ll keep on trying. Although it appears easy, making a good chair is very complicated, sometimes it takes me years. A tremendous number of chairs are made and a lot of different approaches are attempted, but they are not all relevant designs. We need the failures too to arrive at good things. The experimentation and try-outs are part of the game, with the objective of making that singular chair.”

And what does the ultimate chair look like?

“I don’t believe that the ultimate chair exists, because it still has to be made. And perhaps I will be the one to make it. There are literally hundreds of thousands of kinds of chairs, each with a different purpose. One chair is an art object, not to sit on, or a desk chair that has to be comfortable. The client has different wishes and demands for every chair. The chair that you make, has to be the best for the context within which you are designing it.”

Which opportunities do you see for the future?

“I will continue to design chairs my whole life. I really enjoy designing something that I’ve never designed before. And something that falls within my ethical standards. No disposables, but an object that people will cherish, manufactured from sustainable materials. If it takes place ethically, there is really nothing that I wouldn’t design.”